Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Amores Perres

This film from Mexico and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will make you feel soiled and in need of a long hot shower with lots of scrubbing. Amores Perros (Love's A Bitch) is the first film I've ever seen with a disclaimer before the credits informing us that no animal was hurt during filming. You see, dogs figure mightily in Amores Perros, and mostly it is cringe inducing, eye averting stuff. I'm no sissy with film violence but seeing bloody, limp dogs over and over was almost a bit much for me.

The film is a non-linear triptych of stories that sort of interweave into one another and converge at a violent, horrific car wreck. The first story is about Octavio, who has feelings for his brother's wife and fights his giant dog to get money. I don't care what the disclaimer says, I've been around dogs my entire life and watched big dogs fight one another. I've jumped into the fray with teeth lashing and know what a dog fight looks like, and the dog fights in this sure looked real. Anyway, everything in this story is pushed to a jittery, frenetic pace, aided by lots of handheld camera and the emotional powder kegs of betrayal and violence between the dogs and the two brothers. Betrayal is an interlocking theme used in all three stories as someone is getting betrayed and in two of them it is brothers doing the back stabbing.

Story two is based around a man and his model girlfriend he leaves his wife and kids for. They move into a beautiful apartment with a hole in the floor that spells trouble for their dog Richie (I told you, dogs walk a dangerous line in this movie and for a dog lover like me, that's hard to watch). These people don't seem to care for one another but there are stressful events in their lives. Story 3 is centered around a homeless man who is also a contract killer and has some kind of damaged relationship with an unknown daughter who haunts him. As I said, all the stories merge.

Amores Perros is one of the bleakest films I've seen in a while. It's also one of the most intense, gritty depictions of living on the fringe of society (or like the second story, in the upper class where all is beautiful yet horror lurks very near). At times the film veers too closely to melodrama but it's so no holds barred in its negativity that I'll forgive it that. This is one hopeless film but it has a feral, unhinged rawness that I really enjoyed. It may sound like I didn't like the movie--but I did. A lot.

Amores Perros was up for best foreign film at the 2000 Oscars and I can see why it didn't win (probably too dark for the voters) but there is often beauty and power in the squalid and Amores Perros delivers a few screaming howls from some dark recess of our existence. You can't really say this is a lot of fun, with all the dogs in various strata of disrepair, betrayals and in your face intensity, but good (great) movies are often filled with ugliness and we are better people for having watched them. Not for the overly sensitive but highly recommended.

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